Imagine this: riding a boat on Lago Atitlan, a lake so blue and beautiful, you can hardly believe the toxins and pollution it contains. A lake surrounded by tall green volcanoes covered in green trees, coffee plants, colorful, touristy markets, and people’s homes. Imagine wandering the streets, sun on your face, admiring and buying the beautiful textiles (which you can’t help but wonder who made them, and for what price), making (somewhat) feeble attempts at bargaining. Feeling somewhat out of your element, yet feeling oddly welcomed into a place that is know by some as “gringo-tenango”. Indigenous people walking the streets in traditional Mayan dress, as you drive past in a tuk-tuk or standing in the back of a pickup, laughing at the tears streaming down your faces from the wind. The warm hospitality you feel from being welcomed into a stranger’s home, eating the meals that they’ve prepared for you, and sleeping in the bed they’ve made for you. Breathing in the dust as you play soccer with the local children, your heart filling with joy as they gather around you, excitedly sharing all of the words that they know in English, chatting enthusiastically with you in Spanish, and attempting to teach you some words in their native tongue, tz’utujil. Trying to live in the moment, taking in all of the sights and sounds, watching all of the people you pass by, a spectator in their everyday lives.
My weekend in Coban was a beautiful experience. It opened my eyes … staying with a family that did not have much, and realizing these people are still happy and grateful for what they have. I kept looking at my life and their life, and thought about how much of a privilege it is to be able to go to school, it’s also a privilege to be able to travel, have a car etc. It was beautiful to see my host mom and her kids gathered around the fire interacting with each other.